Ebooks now the #1 book format

By Andrew Hudson Published: June 22, 2012 Updated: January 9, 2015

Ebooks have outsold hardcovers for the first time and have probably just overtaken trade paperbacks to become the most popular format for books.

According to a report by the Association of American Publishers (as reported by >ZDNet on June 18, 2012), for the first three months of this year, ebook sales increased by 28% over the same period last year. This puts them ahead of hardcovers and within striking distance of trade paperbacks. >ZDNet expects that, “e-books will certainly by year’s end be the most popular book format …”

Extrapolating the data, sales for this quarter are probably around $291 million for trade paperbacks and $295.5 million for adult ebooks, meaning that ebooks have just become the most popular book format.

Books by Format

First quarter of 2011 vs. first quarter of 2012
FormatQ1 2011
Q1 2012
Adult eBook$229.4$282.3+28%
Adult hardcover$223.0$229.6+3%
Trade paperback$335.0$299.8-10.5%
Mass-market paperbacks$223.7$98.9-20.8%
Q1=First quarter=January to March.
Data from the Association of American Publishers as reported by >ZDNet

The increase comes at the expense of paperbacks, particularly the lowest cost ones. Surprisingly, sales of hardcovers are actually increasing, seemingly unaffected by the rise of ebooks.

“The conventional wisdom had been that e-books would eat up hardbound book. That’s not happening. Instead, while e-books will certainly by year’s end be the most popular book format, it’s paperback books that are really taking a hit. Perhaps that’s because when you’re buying a hardcover, you’re buying not just a story but an artifact, an object with more value than just as a way to get to the story.”
>Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at ZDNet, June 18, 2012

Source: >Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at ZDNet, Association of American Publishers. Image of Kindle from Amazon.com.

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